Tips to maintain self health as a cancer caregiver

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, it often takes an emotional toll on both the patient and their loved ones. It takes courage and strength to become a cancer patient’s caregiver.

As a caregiver you take on several logistical roles: the chef, the nurse, the driver, etc. You also take on supportive roles as well: the shoulder to cry on and the listening ear. Through each of these roles, your goal is to provide comfort, but it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. It’s important that you stay physically and mentally strong.

Courtney Vastine, oncology social worker at Baylor College of Medicine, offers advice about how to take care of your health while providing care to a cancer patient.

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  • Make time for yourself: Compassion fatigue among caregivers is common but can be prevented. Take 15-30 minutes out of every day before you go to sleep at night and do something that you enjoy. Whether it’s yoga, listening to music, or going for a walk, take a moment to appreciate you.
  • Give yourself a break: Many days and nights will completely exhaust you – but remember you are not alone. Connect with family and friends and ask for help. Find a few hours or days when you can be away so someone else can briefly take on your role. Your own support team is there for you too.
  • Connect with others: At Baylor, we offer tools and resources for caregivers and their families to connect with others who face similar diagnoses, including yoga classes and support groups for breast cancer patients and their care teams. There are plenty of additional resources available to educate and connect caregivers. A great place to start is the American Cancer Society.

Vastine says the most important piece of advice is to be yourself.

“Social support is essential for cancer patients undergoing treatment, as it can be a very difficult time. Caregivers are the backbone of this support system. They show daily compassion and courage for the patient they love,” Vastine said. “Try not to worry about doing it right – your genuine compassion and support is what matters most.”

-By Eliana Amram

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